Universal Basic Income has majority support in the UK and Canada but not in the US

Gallup released the results of a survey today on the topic of Universal Basic Income. The survey found that respondents in the UK and Canada overwhelmingly support UBI while it remains a minority position in the United States:


A recent survey by Gallup and Northeastern University finds a slight majority of Americans opposed to a universal basic income (UBI) program as a way to support workers displaced by AI adoption. Conversely, about three-fourths of residents in the U.K. and Canada favor the idea…

In the survey, UBI was defined for respondents as a government-instituted program that would provide every adult with a specific amount of money each year. These funds would serve as income support for people who lose their jobs or occupations because of advances in artificial intelligence…

Gaps in support for UBI among the three countries surveyed may be due to the tradition of more robust social safety nets in the U.K. and Canada than in the U.S.

In all three countries, young people are the most supportive of the idea. In the UK and Canada, about 80 percent of those 18 to 29 support it while in the US it’s 60 percent.

As for why there is such a gap between countries, Gallup may be speculating a bit but I think they are onto something. Countries where people expect free health care paid for by the government seem more likely to accept the idea of cash handouts paid for by the government. In fact, the most interesting result in this survey was the follow-up question about whether or not supporters of the idea would be willing to pay higher taxes to implement it. Here’s the chart prepared by Gallup.


Keep in mind this chart is the result for supporters of UBI only. Notice that in the U.S. it’s the young people who are most willing to pay for it. Put another way, only a fracton (14%) of the 60% of young supporters of the idea in the U.S. are not willing to pay more to make it happen. Meanwhile, in the UK and Canada 80% of the young support the idea but barely over half of them are willing to pay for it through higher taxes.

It’s enough to make you think that some sense of basic economics still permeates the U.S. In fact, I wonder if support for UBI wouldn’t rise UK/Canada levels if people here in the U.S. were less likely to feel obligated to contribute the money to pay for it. After all, UBI packaged with higher taxes (even if that’s just implicit in the respondent’s mind) is less appealing than UBI without higher taxes.

I’d genuinely like to know where the people who want this but aren’t willing to pay for it think the money will come from. Someone else, obviously, but who exactly would it be? They seem to have forgotten that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.

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